Summary: Don’t you just love a good mystery? In today’s passage, Paul reveals the fact that marriage is a mystery. But it’s not just an ordinary mystery. Marriage is a mystery that reveals the true nature of Jesus and the love He has for His bride, the church.
In just these few verses, Paul tells us that this thing called marriage is a picture. In the working out of what it means to be husband and wife, married couples paint a picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the unique role of a man being a husband, he is playing the part of Jesus. In the unique role of a woman being a wife, she is playing the part of the church. The man isn’t Jesus, he is just playing His role. The woman isn’t the church, she is just playing her role. But what a role it is. In playing the role of Jesus, the husband is supposed to treat his bride like Jesus treats the church. In playing the role of the church, the bride is supposed to respond to her husband the same way that the church is supposed to respond to Jesus.
How does Jesus treat the church? Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus had everything. He is God, and as God, He was seated in perfect relationship with the Trinity in His holy, heavenly throne room. He didn’t continue to selfishly cling to that position, but instead, He gave it up. Even though He is God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. He gave up that position and stature and benefit. He made Himself of no reputation. He became a helpless, crying baby who had to put up with all the physical issues that you and I do. He had to become a teenager. He had to become an adult. He had to endure temptation. He had to be hungry and thirsty and hot and cold. That’s a far cry from what the creator of the universe deserved, isn’t it? But He humbled Himself even further than that. Because He humbled Himself to the point of allowing Himself to suffer shame and humiliation and abuse. Even to the point of death. Why? He did it for His bride. He did it so that He might set her apart as holy unto Himself. He did it that He might cleanse her and wash her and purify her. He did it so He could present her to Himself as clean and pure and holy and without any blemish or stain from sin. Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” We are to love our wives in such a way that we will one day be able to present her to Jesus as holy and without blemish. Men, we will be held accountable for the spiritual condition of our wives. Yes, she will stand and give an account as to how she responded to your spiritual leadership. But you will be held accountable for providing that leadership. The kind of spiritual leadership that has as its goal, your wife’s sanctification and her purification. If you ever ask your wife to do something that will defile her or lead her into sin, the Lord will hold you accountable. And when you treat your wife like Jesus treats the church, it should be easy for her to respond to you the way she should.
That’s how Jesus treats the church, but how is the church to respond to Jesus? By loving Him with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. By adoring Him and praising Him and showing Him His worth. That’s what worship is, isn’t it? Worship is an old English compound word that means “to show worth”. When we, as the church, worship Christ, we do it because He is worthy of our worship. We submit to Christ. Why? Because He is a dictator? No—because we love Him and He is worthy. We serve Him and devote our whole life to Him. Everything we are and everything we do is supposed to be for His honor and for His glory. Verse 24 says, “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” We can’t water that down just because we don’t like it. We can’t juggle the meaning of words just because we don’t like what they say. The fact is, the Text says that wives are to respond to their husbands in the same way that the church is supposed to respond to Jesus.
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as unto the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. That’s great Sunday morning theology, isn’t it? But tell me something. What does that Sunday morning theology look like on Monday morning? What does it look like when the kids are screaming and driving you crazy and all he wants to do is plop down on the couch and watch TV? What does it look like when you get home from work and all you get is an earful of complaints about all the things you’re not doing right? Is this passage for Sunday mornings only? Or can it play out on Mondays too? Over the next few minutes, I want to give you some practical implications that come from this passage. I’m not going to turn this into some kind of self-improvement seminar where we look at “10 easy steps to a happy marriage.” Those things are usually a crock. The fact is that there are no easy steps to a happy marriage. If it was easy, God wouldn’t have used it as the mystery which displays the sacrificial love of Christ for the church, would He? No, there are no “easy” steps to a happy marriage. But the biblical commands are clear. Wives, you are to biblically submit to your husbands. Husbands, you are to biblically love your wife. The question is, how can you do that? Let’s start with the ladies, because that’s the order of the passage.